Elizabeth Willing Powel

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Matthew Pratt Elizabeth Powel EW-Powel-Phila-art-340.jpg

Elizabeth Willing Powel (February 21, 1743 – January 17, 1830) was an American socialite and patriot.


  • I presume your Grand Children are with you, and doubt not that they will afford you every consolation that existing Circumstances will admit. Present me affectionately and sympathetically to them they also have lost a protecting affectionate Connection, and I have lost a much valued Friend.
  • I have certainly experienced severe trials, and some hard dispensations of Providence … To travel with some dignity, innocence, and usefulness, down the Road which leads from the Morning of Youth to the Night of the Grave, is perhaps as much as we can flatter ourselves with accomplishing.
  • Powel: Well, Doctor, what have we got?
    Benjamin Franklin: A republic, Madam, if you can keep it.
    Powel: And why not keep it?
    Franklin: Because the people, on tasting the dish, are always disposed to eat more of it than does them good.
  • Your resignation wou'd elate the Enemies of good Government...They would say that you were actuated by Principles of self-Love alone—that you saw the Post was not tenable with any Prospect of adding to your Fame. The antifederalists would use it as an argument for dissolving the Union, and would urge that you, from Experience, had found the present System a bad one, and had, artfully, withdrawn from it that you might not be crushed under its Ruins.
  • [You] have frequently demonstrated that you possess an Empire over yourself. For Gods sake do not yield that Empire to a Love of Ease, Retirement, rural Pursuits, or a false Diffidence of Abilities which those that best know you so justly appreciate. Convince the World then that you are a practical Philosopher, and that your native Philanthropy has inducted you to relinquish an Object so Essiential to your Happiness...That you are not indifferent to the Plaudits of the World I must conclude when I believe that the love of honest Fame has and ever will be predominate in the best the noblest and most capable Natures. Nor is the Approbation of Mankind to be disregarded with Impunity even by you.

Quotes about Powel[edit]

  • Contrary to American custom, [Mrs. Powel] plays the leading role in the family. What chiefly distinguishes her is her taste for conversation [and] her wit and knowledge.
  • [The Powels were] difficult to separate from each other, who lived together not as man and wife… but as two friends, happily matched in point of understanding, taste, and information.
    • François Jean de Beauvoir, Marquis de Chastellux, as quoted in Snyder, Samantha. Elizabeth Willing Powel. Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington.
  • Dined at Mr. Powells -- A most sinfull Feast again! Every Thing which could delight the Eye, or allure the Taste.
  • Like Mira, Virtue’s Self possess
    Let her adorn your Mind
    For Virtue in a pleasing dress
    Has Charms for all Mankind
    Her spotless Mantle shall be shown
    When its blest Owner flies
    The Flaming Chariot make it known
    When Soaring to the Skies.
  • When in society she will animate and give a brilliancy to the whole Conversation; you know the uncommons command she has of Language and her ideas flow with rapidity.
    • Anne Willing Francis, as quoted in Snyder, Samantha. Elizabeth Willing Powel. Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington.

External links[edit]

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